Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
10. May Colvin

FALSE Sir John a-wooing came
  To a maid of beauty fair;
May Colvin was this lady’s name,
  Her father’s only heir.

He woo’d her but, he woo’d her ben,
  He woo’d her in the ha’;
Until he got the lady’s consent
  To mount and ride awa’.

‘Go fetch me some of your father’s gold,
  And some of your mother’s fee,        10
And I’ll carry you into the north land,
  And there I’ll marry thee.’

She’s gane to her father’s coffers
  Where all his money lay,
And she’s taken the red, and she’s left the white,        15
  And so lightly she’s tripp’d away.

She’s gane to her father’s stable
  Where all the steeds did stand,
And she’s taken the best, and she’s left the warst
  That was in her father’s land.        20

She’s mounted on a milk-white steed,
  And he on a dapple-grey,
And on they rade to a lonesome part,
  A rock beside the sea.

‘Loup off the steed,’ says false Sir John,
  ‘Your bridal bed you see;
Seven ladies I have drownèd here,
  And the eight’ one you shall be.

‘Cast off, cast off your silks so fine
  And lay them on a stone,        30
For they are too fine and costly
  To rot in the salt sea foam.

‘Cast off, cast off your silken stays,
  For and your broider’d shoon,
For they are too fine and costly        35
  To rot in the salt sea foam.

‘Cast off, cast off your Holland smock
  That’s border’d with the lawn,
For it is too fine and costly
  To rot in the salt sea foam.’—        40

‘O turn about, thou false Sir John,
  And look to the leaf o’ the tree;
For it never became a gentleman
  A naked woman to see.’

He turn’d himself straight round about
  To look to the leaf o’ the tree;
She’s twined her arms about his waist
  And thrown him into the sea.

‘O hold a grip o’ me, May Colvín,
  For fear that I should drown;        50
I’ll take you home to your father’s bower
  And safe I’ll set you down.’

‘No help, no help, thou false Sir John,
  No help, no pity thee!
For you lie not in a caulder bed        55
  Than you thought to lay me.’

She mounted on her milk-white steed,
  And led the dapple-grey,
And she rode till she reach’d her father’s gate,
  At the breakin’ o’ the day.        60

Up then spake the pretty parrot,
  ‘May Colvin, where have you been?
What has become o’ false Sir John
  That went with you yestreen?’—

‘O hold your tongue, my pretty parrot!
  Nor tell no tales o’ me;
Your cage shall be made o’ the beaten gold
  And the spokes o’ ivorie.’

Up then spake her father dear,
  In the bed-chamber where he lay:        70
‘What ails the pretty parrot,
  That prattles so long ere day?’—

‘There came a cat to my cage, master,
  I thought ’t would have worried me,
And I was calling to May Colvín        75
  To take the cat from me.’
GLOSS:  but, ben] both in the outer and inner rooms.  loup] leap.


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